Sylvester Judd (1813-1853): Novelist of Transcendentalism

Sylvester Judd (1813-1853): Novelist of Transcendentalism

Sylvester Judd (1813-1853): Novelist of Transcendentalism

Sylvester Judd (1813-1853): Novelist of Transcendentalism

Excerpt

The Reverend Sylvester Judd (1813-1853), Unitarian minister in Augusta, Maine, from 1840 to his death, lived through much of the idealism of New England's social and literary renaissance, known to us as Transcendentalism, in the quiet Kennebec Valley town where his church and his heart abode. Born in western Massachusetts, far from the liberalism of the coastal cities of his native state, he came only in mature life from the traditional ways of Calvinism to an acceptance of Unitarianism. He was not reared in the traditions of liberal Christianity; he was a convert to its principles. His ancestry, his boyhood training, and his undergraduate college years at Yale were at variance with the theology and idealism of the friends and followers of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Three years at the Harvard Divinity School provided his only personal association with the leaders and enthusiasms of Transcendentalism. The remaining thirteen years of his life were spent in Augusta, with only rare visits there from the leaders of liberal thought and occasional trips to other cities.

Yet, rusticating in the conscientious performance of the many duties of the rural minister, Judd found time and inspiration to write two novels, a long narrative poem, and an unfinished poetic drama which derived much of their inspiration from the ideals of Emerson's transcendental philosophy. And in so far as he reflects in his novels the social ideals and the distinctive philosophy of individual living which form much of the foundation of all Emerson's writings, Judd occupies a unique place in the literary history of Transcendentalism. For among all the philosophers, essayists, historians, and poets who traveled under that banner of strange device in 1840, novelists were strangely rare, especially novelists who endeavored to translate into the pages of fiction the teachings which Emerson and his associates expounded for the guidance of the individual life.

Hawthorne, to be sure, was a part of this group actually, but he was not of it spiritually and intellectually, and his novels do not seriously attempt any interpretation of the philosophies of . . .

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